Emotional Affairs

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT

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Emotional affairs are cheating too and are very painful and damaging to a marriage, even though they may not involve intercourse or sexual relations. Emotional attachments and infidelity can be as destructive.

Emotional affairs involve a mutual friendship with another person that is kept a secret from a spouse. It is not the same thing as a platonic friendship because it involves sharing personal information in a way that leads to stronger feelings with the friend than with a spouse or partner and has some element of sexual chemistry.

Any feelings of guilt at having done something wrong may be denied since there has not been sexual involvement.  Those involved in emotional affairs find ways to justify the innocence of the relationship.
Emotional affairs develop from friendships with another person that deepen as knowledge and intimate information is exchanged. There often is no plan to develop feelings for someone else … they just happen with time and connection and may grow in even the most unlikely friendships. Most of the damage from the emotional affair occurs because of the secrecy, lies and the distance that grows as feelings of attraction and love are transferred from the spouse to this new person. 
Some of the signs that might be evidence of an emotional affair are:
  • Thinking more about “the friend” than your spouse.
  • Noticing a change in feelings about your spouse as the friendship with the new person develops.
  • Keeping secrets about this friendship from your spouse.
  • Becoming defensive when this friend’s name is mentioned or lying about your connection.
  • Having sexual thoughts or fantasies about this other person.
  • Sharing personal secrets with this other person.
  • Talking negatively about your marriage with “the friend”.
  • Believing that your friend “gets you” in a way that your spouse does not.